Sound Bites… BSS Compressors

Sound Bites… BSS Compressors

If the original BSS DPR402 and DPR404 Compressors were produced by a US Boutique Audio manufacturer today with a fancy name (SirenBrook Labs, for instance) and a price tag of three thousand bucks, the chatrooms would go into overdrive. ‘Amazing’ Mister Gearslutz of Minneapolis would rave. ‘Fast, punchy and sounds great. A 150% Must-Have for any aspiring engineer or producer.’ But because the BSS doesn’t have BIG KNOBS, it is scorned on, regarded as ‘down market’ or ‘midrange’ or even worse, as AUTHENTIC.

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In actual fact, the DPR402 has an awful lot of hidden tricks up its sleeve (quite apart from offering one of the best sounding and most versatile compressor/limiters ever to grace the racks of Abbey Road and other discerning studios.) To start with, it looks great. The producer David Lord (who was a massive fan) once described it as having more LEDS for the money than any other unit, and it probable has, with accurate input and output metering on each channel. This is not a simple compressor, like the DBX160A or X. It offers a similar quality and lightning fast response as the DBX but provides compression, limiting AND de-essing in an attractive one-unit rack. Indeed, the DPR402 is worth double its used price for the two de-essers alone – top quality units.

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The 402 is dual mono or stereo with a simple link switch which allows both compressors to accurately track one another. But it also has a powerful secret – it can operate as a variable frequency compressor with a choice of side-chain frequencies. The rear of the unit has a tag strip, and depending on which terminals are linked, can provide selective frequency compression and/or limiting. Chas Brooks came up with this light-years ahead of the current fad for sidechain compression control. But because this was an additional feature over and above the host of standard front panel controls, very few users ever explored the potential. Neil Perry (Raw State) used to make a 1U panel with the different available frequencies that could be racked below the DPR 402 to allow an engineer instant access to select the frequency he required. Engineers could accurately select those frequencies they wanted to compress or limit, a fantastic idea that other manufacturers took a further twenty years to wake up to, and which is generally only available in expensive units. Over a mix or a group, for example, this can grab the bass or the hf tizz or… any frequency you want.

All in all, Chas Brooks was years ahead of his time when he designed the BSS DPR402. All the top studios had them in their racks in the 1980s as did all the top PA companies. Maybe the unit went out of fashion when the market veered towards large, chunky two or three U processors with big knobs and equally large price tags, often hyped up by US dealers and on-line chat rooms. But now that rack space has become a valuable commodity once more and so much modern music demands punch and tightness rather than the wishy-washy flabbiness, BSS compressors should be revisited. Equally at home across a kit, a vocal or a mix, these amazing dynamics processors can be picked up for comparative peanuts, crazy bearing in mind the quality of sound and facilities.

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